Tommy Lloyd says ‘mutual’ feeling led to Ballo’s departure

PHOENIX — Largely because his team made just five of 28 3-pointers against Clemson in the Sweet 16, Tommy Lloyd’s offseason likely started a little earlier than expected.

He had no trouble filling it all the time. Since the Wildcats’ season ended in the March 28 NCAA tournament game, the UA coach has held postseason meetings with players, four of whom were cut from the program: center Oumar Ballo, guard Kylan Boswell, forward Paulius Murauskas and wing Filip Borovicanin.

Lloyd brought two others out of the transfer portal, Trey Townsend (Oakland) and Tobe Awaka (Tennessee), and he’s now waiting to see if he needs more help depending on whether NBA Draft test guards Caleb Love, Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis return or not.

Last week, Lloyd’s route included stops at the Big 12 meets and at UA’s first Wildcat Welcome Tour stop in Central Phoenix. This week, Lloyd is scheduled for a tour stop on Tuesday at the Union Public House, after which he will take a few days off before returning to work.

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Later this month, he will coach USA Basketball’s U18 team at training camp in Colorado before heading to the FIBA ​​U18 AmeriCup in Argentina.

“It was busy, actually,” Lloyd said.

In between all that there was time for reflection.

“Anytime you lose and you feel like you have a chance, it’s tough,” Lloyd said of the Clemson game. “There’s a grieving period, there’s a period where your emotions are quite raw, but that’s a good time to reflect and really dig deep. I spent a lot of time on that.

“It’s about continuing to find ways that we can get better as a group, (ways) that I can get better as a coach, and our players can get better. We have spent a lot of time reflecting and analyzing where we are and what we are doing. But nothing crazy or critical.”

Tommy Lloyd says Trey Townsend was a ‘Plan A’ option for the Wildcats in the transfer portal.

Matt Freed, Associated Press

In an interview with the Star ahead of Thursday’s Wildcat tour event, Lloyd discussed some additional spring topics:

One of the most common reactions after the Clemson game was why you stopped hitting the ball inside.

A: Clemson played a very compact defense. There were no lanes. So at some point you’ll hopefully have to try a few times. …with 45 seconds left it was a one-possession game, so we were there. We just didn’t succeed.

After losing to Houston (in the 2022 Sweet 16), you said you wanted to get tougher.

Was there a part of the experience this year that made you think…

A: I’m going to keep those things private. We are still analyzing what areas we want to get better in, but toughening up and getting better will always be part of the equation.

Are the departures a surprise at all? Many people have asked about Oumar.

A: It was mutual. I think one of the things people need to understand is that these kids have a lot of opportunity, and Oumar has six years of eligibility (he redshirted in 2019-20 and picked up an extra year of eligibility by playing during the COVID season of 2020-21).

(Motiejus) Krivas gets four. At some point you have to look beyond just one player. You build a program over a long period of time and players come from the bottom up. Even Oumar acknowledged that. If Christian (Koloko) had not left (as a junior in 2022), it would have been more difficult for Oumar. I think sometimes there has to be a little bit of movement to give other guys opportunities on your roster.

It sounded like he did tooell-wise (Ballo had a reported asking amount of $1.2 million).

A: That’s between him and them. I don’t get involved in things like that. No conversations with me.

How do you think Townsend and Awaka will fit into that?

A: “Trey and Toby were both Plan A options for us. We feel like they keep making us better. They definitely add talent, depth and versatility to our roster. I’m excited, and the other one I’m excited about – which no one is talking about because it’s out of sight, out of mind – is Henri (Veesaar, second-year forward who redshirted last season). Henri got a lot better this year. So I like the depth we have up front. I like the versatility. I think our front line has a chance to be very, very good.

UA coach Tommy Lloyd expects big things from Henri Veesaar in 2024-2025.

Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star 2023

Do you also see Trey playing the three?

A: I’m sure he could. I think he’s a much better shooter than he shows. (Oakland) played a certain style and he was very effective at it, but I think he can really shoot the ball, similar to what Keshad (Johnson, outgoing power forward) did for us last year. So I’m excited about the way he can contribute and the versatility he brings.”

A: He’s probably a five positionally, but I think there are situations where he could definitely play the four. We have to get on the field with all these guys and try to figure it out. I try not to predetermine too many things.

Are you done recruiting (for next season) or does it depend on Love and Lewis coming back?

A: We’ve got to let this NBA thing play out a little bit, and then we’ll go from there. We communicate with them constantly. They are great kids and we are happy that they are getting opportunities. We will probably know more in a few weeks.”

Bradley was a bit of a surprise because he didn’t make (entering the draft) public. Do you think he only gets feedback?

A: His name is in there and I think all options are on the table, but Jaden is a really good player. You could easily argue that he improved more than anyone else over the course of the season for us last year. I’m happy to see how he continues to grow as a player. … (and just like with Lewis), these young guys, there’s an opportunity for them to go and see if there’s interest for them. KJ is a great kid and we support him 100%. It was nice to see it really blossom during its first year.

Do you want to add another guard this spring, just in case?

A: We feel good about where we are depending on what’s happening. Obviously we’ll be talking to people, but we probably won’t make any decisions until we know what our guys are going to do… (recruits) are probably all doing the same thing.”

Bruce Pascoe is a veteran sports reporter for the Arizona Daily Star who covers basketball at the University of Arizona. He has traveled with the team all the way to Israel and has been reporting for the Star since the late 1990s. Prior to joining the Star, Bruce worked at the Las Vegas Review-Journal and graduated from Northwestern University. David and Bruce talk about the highlights of basketball and sports reporting in a college town, the struggles of the beat, Bruce’s love of sports and where it comes from, and how his reporting impacts the community.

Pascal Albright

Contact sportscaster Bruce Pascoe at [email protected]. On X(Twitter): @brucepascoe